A Picture is Worth…

Everyone knows that trite expression: a picture is worth a thousand words. But what does that really mean?

I read this news story on the Huffington Post the other day about a woman who kept the body of her husband after he passed away. And what did she do with him? Well. A bunch of seemingly normal things actually. She sat and watched NASCAR with him. She took him to the mall and drove him around in a wheelchair. She cooked him dinner and they’d eat and have coffee and sit around and talk. Sometimes they discussed serious matters, like politics and global warming. But sometimes he just made her laugh. And at night, they’d go to bed and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Some nights they’d even make love. But most nights he was too tired, or she was too tired, so they’d just end up reading in bed in comfortable silence together.

This went on for a year and a half. Until the smell got so bad that neighbors wore gas masks when passing by the house. The police started poking around the neighborhood asking questions. Eventually they caught on and put her in jail for fraud. Turns out she was still collecting his social security and pension benefits the whole time. They had a picture of her mugshot – there was hope and sparkle in her eyes. At first glance, it would seem as if she was a brazen psychopathic criminal. And when they talked to her, she seemed completely normal and very lucid, logical, on all topics current and past. Except for the fact that she couldn’t admit that her husband was actually dead. As far as she was concerned, he was alive and well. Waiting for her back at the house. Probably watching NASCAR by himself.

In court, her lawyer argued the insanity plea and asked that they put her in a mental institution instead of the general prison system. But at that point, I don’t think she even cared. I say that based on the pictures of her during the trial. And if that judge wasn’t so nearsighted, maybe he could’ve seen it in her face too and known. Known that at that point, she was honestly more concerned that her husband was home alone and worried about where she’s been this whole time. Just that look on her face alone could have told him how inhumane and heartless and misguided our world can be when we stick to logic and forget the heart.

And as the judge slammed his gavel and gave her 3 years in the state penitentiary for defrauding the government, the look in her eyes then was the opposite of the look she had in that mugshot. There was no hope or sparkle or even madness in those eyes anymore. She didn’t care where she was going. She only knew that wherever it was that she was going, she couldn’t take him with her.

So maybe a picture really isn’t worth a thousand words. Or any amount of words. Because instead, maybe it’s just worth a single feeling. Or maybe a thousand feelings. Who knows. Either way you look at it, you still need a picture to look at in the first place.

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